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Igor Ivanov

President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)

Igor Ivanov’s Address to the German Marshall Fund 2016 Brussels Forum "A World Beyond Disorder", March 19th, 2016.

Igor Ivanov’s Address to the German Marshall Fund 2016 Brussels Forum "A World Beyond Disorder", March 19th, 2016.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For more than two years dramatic developments in and around Ukraine remain the focal point of the European politics. Even the bloody conflict in Syria and the migration crisis in Europe could not put Ukraine on a back burner.

It would not be an over exaggeration to say that the Ukrainian crisis and its final resolution will have a profound impact not only on the relations between Russia and Europe, but also on the European project at large. The failure to handle the crisis would be our common; the success could become a turning point in the modern European history.

Having said that, I would like to challenge a wide spread opinion that Ukraine was the main cause of the crisis in Europe’s relations with Russia. I my view, the Ukrainian crisis turned out to be a catalyst that exposed in the most dramatic way all the problems in the relations between Russia and the West that we preferred to hide or to downplay. As a result, we now run the risk of a new division of Europe.

I’d like to bring your attention to the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative Report, where I had the privilege to be engaged together with my partners from Europe and the United States. We concluded in this document that the “Euro-Atlantic security must be improved or the existing risks will grow. Yet more than 20 years after the Cold War, no new approach to security in the Euro-Atlantic region has been defined, agreed, or implemented. No nation benefits this persistent inaction in defining a fresh approach to mutual security…

We need a new concept for building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region – a strategy that is informed by the interests of the all states delinked from the past and grounded in the realities of the present and the hopes for the better future…”

The key question for all of us, however, is not about who is to blame, but rather about what is to be done under the current unfortunate circumstances. Above all, neither Europe, nor Russia has anything to gain from Ukraine becoming a ‘failed state’ in the center of the European continent. On the contrary, such a development would create a whole range of fundamental threats and challenges to everybody in Europe, not to mention the countless tragedies and suffering of the Ukrainian people.

The Ukrainian crisis also demonstrated the current European institutional deficit. Many European and Euro-Atlantic organizations and mechanisms were specifically designed to prevent or to resolve such crises. They all failed to do so – with the qualified exception of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Instead, the crisis gave birth to new forms of international co-operation like the so-called “Normandy process”. This new format may look extremely fragile, but it at least demonstrates our common ability to make tangible progress under even the most difficult circumstances.

Where should we go from there? First, we have to admit that the paths of Europe and Russia are seriously diverging and will remain so for a long time. Not for months or even years, but probably for decades to come. This continental shift, the drifting apart of the two European geopolitical plates, will have a huge and lasting impact on both Europe and the world. There will be no return to the autumn of 2013, even if the situation in Ukraine is by some miracle brought back to normal. The changes taking place before our eyes are not only radical, but also irreversible, putting an end to some political projects and opening up opportunities for other ones.

In the emerging new geopolitical reality, Russia is no longer the eastern flank of the failed Greater Europe and is becoming the western flank of the emerging Greater Eurasia. The shift of strategic accents means that Moscow should invest considerable political capital in developing the mechanisms of Eurasian Economic Union, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and other multilateral structures of Greater Eurasia.

This does not mean that Russia should turn its back on Europe, renouncing interaction with its European partners and friends. Far from it. Russia has too many bonds connecting it to Europe: history and geography, culture and religion, decades of economic cooperation and a multi-million Russian diaspora in all European countries. Moreover, the success of including Russia in various Eurasian integration projects depends greatly on whether Moscow manages to ensure security and stability on its Western flank.

Unfortunately, so far this does not happen. Russia and the West appear to have entered a new phase of the arms race, in which Europe has become the center stage. It can be assumed that once the U.S. deploys its missile defense system in Poland, Russia would respond by deploying its own Iskander missile defense system in the Kaliningrad Region. Events are playing out in a similar way to that of the missile crisis of the mid-1980s. However, at least back then channels of communication and reasonable mechanisms for dialogue existed. We don’t have those now, and that is why many people see the current situation as more dangerous than the crisis 30 years ago.

This is why our first task is to prevent the escalation of military tensions, restore dialogue on security issues, expand military contacts, exchange information on defense plans, compare military doctrines, etc. However, we must not forget about the new security challenges that are equally serious for Russia and Europe – international terrorism, political extremism, cybercrime and the threat of techno-genic disasters. We can respond to these challenges by establishing appropriate international regimes that include Russia and its Western partners.

As for Ukraine, the time has come to look beyond the Mink agreements and beyond the Normandy format. It is evident that even the full implementation of the Agreements will not resolve the Ukrainian crisis. We need to develop a comprehensive plan for the social and economic rehabilitation of the country, for the renaissance of the Ukrainian statehood.

It will require bringing to the table additional stakeholders – the European Union, the United States, Great Britain and, possibly, neighboring countries – such as Poland and Belarus.

Many of those who are present here today, especially Honorable Michael Turner, remember well our joint efforts to manage the situation in Bosnia. It was not an easy problem to deal with. There were many skeptics, many critics, and many outright opponents of our approach. But, in the end of the day, we managed to overcome all the complication and to reach a lasting solution.

The same approach, in my view, should be applied to Ukraine. Only together – Russia, main European countries, the United States – we can reverse the current unfortunate trend of political, economic and social degradation in Ukraine.

At the same time only in the process of such cooperation we can start rebuilding trust and mutual confidence in our own relations.

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
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